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About Kingfisher Airlines

It is one of the privately owned and famed airlines in India, based in Bangalore India this airline has created a mark for itself over last few years since its commencement of operations in 2005. Kingfisher Airlines comes from the parent company “United Breweries Group” or popularly known as the “UB group”.
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Having the main bases at Bengaluru International Airport, Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Indira Gandhi International Airport, it operates a network of around 40 destinations with more than 200 flights per day.
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Though being an domestic airlines till yet, it has shown intensions to fly to USA following the lease of new Airbuses A320 and A200 in coming times with Bangalore being its major hub. Currently this airline flies with two service classes Economy and Business and has been granted a 5 star rating from Skytrax.
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Kingfisher as per its expansion plans have also acquired stake in Air Deccan airlines, which is an LCC in the market and have also shown intensions to acquire further stake in the same. Due to its inflight services and operations, Kingfisher airlines have also been awarded with lot of accolades and awards like the Business leadership award by NDTV, Economic Times Avaya award, India’s favorite airlines in a survey by IMB, Service excellence for a New airline by Skytrax and more.
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The currently held event of IPL cricket also had Kingfisher airlines as a sponsor for the Bangalore team. Mr Vijay Mallya, being the proud owner of this airline is all set to achieve higher targets and objectives in the coming time and he is all minds for it.

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Discover the Little Known Secrets of Finding the Best Cheap Flights to Canada

There are many good reasons to make use of cheap flights to Canada. The giant of the North American continent is the USA. We have all heard how everything there seems to be bigger. Canada may be a smaller country than the US as far as territory is concerned but its charms are just as exciting.
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Cheap flights to Canada come with many benefits. Whether you are a vacationer or a regular visitor to Canada you will be able to save money. Try booking your tickets as early as possible in order to gain even more of a discount. All cheap flights are handled by established and experienced travel agents and airlines. This gives the traveling consumer a choice.
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You can get the most cost effective tickets to Canada by opting for a package deal. This could include air tickets, rental car, and accommodation and specified meals. A very good example of an all inclusive trip to Canada is a stay at a skiing resort. This may even include the use of skiing equipment and care for the kids. Booking cheap tickets has never been easier. Simply go online and make your choice.

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How to Get Cheap Travel Packages

The Direct Route Isn’t Always the Cheapest
In many cases there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how including work. There are seasonal changes, time changes, variations depending on demand, and then what seems like changes for not any reason at all. When searching for discount etc., look at alternate routes to get where you need to go. In many cases, a combination of 2 flights can be cheaper in comparison with one flight.
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This typically works by taking advantage of very low cost domestic plane tickets within the USA. For example, a return flight coming from New York to Montreal hotel like Best Western Europa in center ville in Canada, which is a trip approximately an hour, generally expenses around $ 300. For the roughly the same price you can find returning flight from NY to Los Angeles. The point is that for causes have to do with traffic, polices, and taxes, household flights are significantly cheaper then international ones, mile pertaining to mile.
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So depending where you want to go, you may come across your plane tickets is much cheaper if you’re willing to make a home flight very first, in advance of switching to an overseas one. If you live in the northern United States, as an example, and want to go to Latin or South America, it will eventually frequently be much cheaper to 1st go on a domestic flight to the southern hub including Miami or Dallas, tx and then fly additional south from there, in contrast to taking a lengthy trip directly from a northern city.
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In many cases if you’re willing to put up with the slight inconvenience of two arrivals, discount travel could be yours. Just remember that as it stands many discount flight websites don’t search for arrivals in this way, so you will need to do some creative thinking by yourself.
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Eat Locally
An often overlooked key to lower price travel is food costs, which can be greatly reduced by buying in local grocery stores rather than dining out. Most places you stay will take advantage of tourists if you can and you frequently don’t understand until you do some currency conversion that you are forking out $ 10 for a poor dinner at your hotel.
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Instead, purchase some healthy snakes and fresh food from a market to eat within your outings. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you’ve to cook – it just means you must grab something fresh that you are able to eat on the go rather than quitting for lunch in the touristy restaurant.

The History of Austrian Airlines at JFK

1. Return to JFK:

Two decades after Austrian Airlines launched its original, but unsuccessful transatlantic service to New York – a joint operation with Sabena Belgian World Airways inaugurated on April 1, 1969 with a Boeing 707-320 registered OE-LBA that made an intermediate stop in Brussels- it returned to the US on March 26, 1989, this time with an Airbus A-310-300 sporting registration OE-LAA. The occasion not only introduced intercontinental service to its route system, but a widebody aircraft with its first three-class cabin configuration to its fleet. Unlike the previous attempt, this one proved successful, but signaled the beginning of another two decades of elasticity, paved with numerous aircraft types, airline alliances and strategies, terminals, handling companies, and computer systems. This is its story.

2. JFK Station Evolution:

Initial training, held at Austrian Airlines' North American headquarters in Whitestone, New York, and taught by Peter "Luigi" Huebner, commenced on February 6, 1989, or six weeks before the inaugural flight, and its curriculum included "Passenger Handling I" and "Adios Check-In" courses.

Austrian Airlines' first JFK location, the East Wing of the no-longer-existent International Arrivals Building, was a shared facility with Icelandair and encompassed five Austrian-specific check-in counters equipped with computers, automated boarding pass printers, and laser-scannable baggage tag printers, and the jointly-used, upper level Icelandair Saga Lounge.

Entirely employed and trained by Austrian and outfitted in its uniform, its staff performed all ground operations functions: Passenger Service, Ticket Sales-Reservations, Lost-and-Found, Load Control, Administration, Supervision, and Management, while Icelandair personnel served on the ramp, overseeing aircraft servicing and baggage, cargo, and mail loading.

However, the success of the operation relied upon the equipment that serviced it and it was only Airbus Industrie's decision to offer a shorter-fuselage, lower-capacity version of its signature A-300 that made the reinstated transatlantic operation possible with the A-310 .

This long-range, twin-engine, widebody design, of concurrent technology, offered the same range and dual-aisle comfort as the comparable quad-engine 747 or the tri-engine DC-10 and L-1011, yet at the same time offered reduced capacity to facilitate profitable, year-round operations. Because of Austrian's market size, the larger 747, DC-10, or L-1011 would otherwise have operated at a loss outside of the peak summer travel season. Any of the other then long-range aircraft, inclusive of the Boeing 707 and the McDonnell-Douglas DC-8, featured older-generation, fuel-thirsty, four-engine Stage 1 technology of the early-1960s and would have been banned from US service unless they had been hush-kited or altogether engine-retrofitted. The very A-310 made Austrian Airlines' long, thin Vienna-New York route sector possible.

The initial 1989 timetable offered six weekly frequencies during the summer and five in the winter, at which time two A-310-300s served New York and Tokyo, the latter with an intermediate stop in Moscow. Alternatively, they also augmented the longer-range routes, such as those to Tel Aviv, Istanbul, and Teheran.

During the first six months of JFK operations, an aircraft never experienced an excessive delay because of scheduling, resulting in exemplary on-time performance.

In-flight service naturally represented a large portion of an airline's expenditure. As a result, many carriers began to reduce this in order to decrease costs. Austrian Airlines, however, remained unique in a world aloft characterized by snacks and paper cups by providing printed menus, amenity kits, china service, complimentary alcoholic beverages, and earphones in the coach cabins of its transatlantic flights to and from Vienna.

Because of the A-310's short fuselage, however, lower-deck cargo space was limited, with the forward hold usually accommodating baggage unit load devices (ULDs) and the aft the cargo itself, which was often restricted to two pallets and a single AKE unit.

Although load factors on the New York-Vienna sector were initially low, they steadily increased until most of the flights were full. Large tour groups constituted an increasing portion of the passenger mix, along with the anticipated connecting passengers, who were able to take advantage of the expanding Vienna hub. It was the ultimate testament to a carrier when a passenger chose to fly with it and make a connection at its home airport as opposed to traveling nonstop with a national carrier.

As a "second attempt" across the Atlantic, Austrian Airline's intercontinental A-310 service to New York was ultimately successful.

With the acquisition of its third A-310-300, registered OE-LAC, Austrian Airlines contemplated service to a second US gateway by the spring of 1991, such as to Los Angeles, but the A-310-300's 11-hour flight duration precluded this reality. Although Chicago was alternatively considered, American's own nonstop Boeing 767-200ER service to Vienna would have resulted in prohibitive competition, since O'Hare was its second-largest hub, leaving Washington-Dulles as the only viable alternative.

For the European continental network, a higher gross weight McDonnell-Douglas MD-83 was ordered for delivery in 1991 and several existing MD-81s were converted to this standard, increasing their range and payload capabilities. Two additional Fokker F.50s were also ordered for domestic and long, thin international routes.

During the five-year period from 1989 to 1994, Austrian Airlines independently operated at JFK, offering as few as four weekly departures during the winter and as many as seven during the summer.

3. Delta Air Lines Code Share:

Changing market conditions prompted a modified strategy at JFK for Austrian. Seeking to align itself with a US domestic carrier in order to obtain feed for its transatlantic flights, for example, it concluded a marketing agreement with Delta Air Lines in 1994, in which it placed its two-letter "OS" code on Delta-operated flights, while Delta itself reciprocally placed its own "DL" designator on Austrian's services. Two Delta flight attendants, wearing their company's uniforms, initially also served in the cabins of its A-310s to and from Vienna.

Although the concept's financial benefit was slow to materialize, the aircraft ultimately achieved high load factors, carrying both Austrian and Delta passengers from some two dozen US cities through New York to Vienna, often with beyond-travel.

In order to reduce ground-handling costs and attain synergistic, inter-carrier benefits, Austrian Airlines relocated its operation to Delta Terminal 1A (later redesignated Terminal 2) on July 1, 1994, retaining only nine of its original 21 staff members. Delta Air Lines, the newly-designated ground-handling carrier, assumed arrivals, lost-and-found, passenger check-in, departure gate, ramp, and baggage room responsibilities, while Austrian itself continued to perform its own ticketing, load control, administration, supervision, and management functions.

1994 also marked the acquisition of two long-range, quad-engine A-340-200s configured for 36 business and 227 economy class passengers and registered OE-LAG and OE-LAH. They periodically served New York throughout the next decade.

Yet another change occurred three years later, between February of 1997 and 1998, when it relocated its check-in counters and operational office to Delta Terminal 3, but otherwise remained in the same marketing alliance.

The year also marked the first time that the transatlantic route to New York had sufficiently matured to support a second departure on selected days during the summer timetable, with this additional flight arriving at 2045 and redeparting at 2205. Usually operated by aircraft OE-LAC, an A-310 with a reduced business, but higher-capacity economy section, it facilitated connections with the midday bank of departures from Vienna.

4. Atlantic Excellence:

Once again yielding to airline deregulation-necessitated realignment and attempting to achieve additional cost-reducing synergies, Austrian Airlines integrated its JFK operations with Sabena Belgian World Airways and Swissair on March 1, 1998, forming the tri-carrier Atlantic Excellence Alliance. Although the employees of all three airlines continued to wear their respective uniforms, they operated from single passenger service and load control offices, utilizing a joint Austrian, Sabena, and Swissair check-in facility, and handled each other's flights.

During the peak summer season, seven daily departures operated by four airlines were offered, inclusive of two to Vienna with Austrian Airlines, two to Brussels with Delta and Sabena, one to Geneva with Swissair, and two to Zurich, also with Swissair.

Eight functions were performed at the Atlantic Excellence station, including Control, Arrivals, Departures, VIP / Special Services, Ticket Sales-Reservations, Load Control, Ramp Supervision, and Trouble Shooting. Because Swissair was contracted to prepare load sheets for Malev-Hungarian Airlines' flights to Budapest, the Load Control function itself entailed handling six aircraft types-747-300s, A-340-200 / -300s, MD-11s, A-330- 200s, 767-200ERs, and A-310-300s-often requiring inter-carrier training courses.

As had singularly occurred with Austrian Airlines, Delta equally concluded reciprocal two-letter code-share agreements with Sabena and Swissair, but now took the former marketing arrangement to full alliance status at Delta's significantly-maturing JFK flight hub. Delta nevertheless continued to provide ramp and baggage room functions for all three Atlantic Excellence airlines.

In August of that year, Austrian Airlines took delivery of the first of four longer-range, higher-capacity A-330-200s, registered OE-LAM and configured for 30 business and 235 economy class passengers, and the type ultimately replaced the A -310-300 as its intercontinental workhorse. The four aircraft, later operating with a reduced, 24-seat business cabin when the Grand Class concept was introduced, sported registrations OE-LAM, OE-LAN, OE-LAO, and OE-LAP.

During the summer timetable of 1998, Austrian fielded its first dual-aircraft type operation from JFK, with the first departure standardly operated by the A-330 and the second by the A-310.

5. Star Alliance:

Although an ultimate "Swissport Solution," under which all Atlantic Excellence ground operations staff would have been transferred to the service provider, was envisioned, the eventuality never occurred.

Rumors, rumbling through the station like the gentle forewarnings of a pending storm, pervaded the atmosphere by mid-1999. A new strategy seemed to loom on the horizon and its seeds, planted long before it bloomed, were multi-faceted and omni-encompassing.

In June of 1999, Delta Air Lines and Air France had formed the fundamental basis of a new global alliance, which was later named SkyTeam, thus dissolving the 25-month Austrian / Delta / Sabena / Swissair Atlantic Excellence Alliance whose agreement, without renegotiation, would have expired in August of 2000.

Despite a ten-percent investment limitation, Swissair had nevertheless attempted to purchase additional Austrian Airlines stock, precluding Austrian's goal of retaining its own identity and independence, and forcing it to withdraw from the Swissair-led Qualiflyer Alliance of European carriers.

Swissair and Sabena formed a combined commercial management structure, which again proved counter to Austrian Airlines' independent direction.

Finally, in early 2000, both Sabena and Swissair concluded code-share agreements with American Airlines, a US airline-alignment that was counter to Austrian Airlines' strategy of US feed.

As a small, but profitable international carrier of considerable quality, Austrian Airlines nevertheless needed the reach of a global alliance to remain profitable and thus concluded a membership agreement with the Lufthansa- and United-led Star Alliance, which became effective on March 26, 2000 .

The largest and longest-running alliance, it was then comprised of Air Canada, Air New Zealand, All Nippon, Ansett Australia, Austrian Airlines, British Midland, Lauda Air, Lufthansa, Mexicana, SAS, Thai Airways International, Tyrolean, United, and Varig, and collectively carried 23-percent of the world's passenger traffic. But, more importantly, the decision facilitated continued independent identity and operation, yet had the potential for expansion. Expressed as a sentiment, the decision was stated as, "Here we grow again!"

The transition from the Atlantic Excellence to the Star Alliance, commencing as early as January of 2000, entailed four integral changes.

1). An entirely new IT (information technology) system and frequent flier program.

2). The operational relocation to a new terminal, passenger service office, passenger check-in counter, load control-aircraft dispatch center, and gate at JFK.

3) New alliance airline code-share flights and traffic feed resulted in the closing of the Atlanta station and the subsequent opening of the Chicago one and the reopening of the Washington one in the US.

4). The company-wide migration training in Oberlaa, Austria, location of Austrian Airlines' head office.

Star Alliance membership, once again entailing a relocation to Terminal One at JFK, prompted another handling carrier change, this time from Delta to Lufthansa, which now performed the Baggage Services and Passenger Check-In functions, while Austrian itself continued to act in the capacities of Arrivals, Ticketing, Load Control, Ramp Supervision, and Management. Under a reciprocal agreement, it also provided these passenger services to Lufthansa for its own Frankfurt departures during non-operational hours. Aircraft loading and baggage room functions were initially performed by Hudson General, which was later renamed GlobeGround North America.

In a further cost-reduction strategy, Austrian Airlines relocated to a smaller, reduced-cost Passenger Service office on the ground floor of Terminal One in September of 2002, at which time the Load Control / Ramp Supervision function was awarded to Lufthansa. No longer serving Lufthansa's flights, Austrian staff members further dwindled, now to six full-time and two part-time positions, and the daily shift hours decreased from nine to eight.

Austrian's largest-capacity aircraft, the A-340-300 – which accommodated 30 business and 261 economy class passengers – intermittently also provided service to JFK, particularly during the summer 2002 timetable when a late Saturday departure was scheduled. Two such aircraft, registered OE-LAK and OE-LAL, now made up part of the fleet.

6. Swissport USA:

The continual need to reduce costs resulted in yet another handling-company change at JFK on January 1, 2003, when most of the ground services were transferred from Lufthansa to Swissport USA.

In preparation for the change, the Swissport passenger service staff attended the Guide Check-In course in Vienna the previous month, while one Swissport agent, who structured the Baggage Services department, attended the World Tracer Basic course later in the year, in October.

Outfitted in Austrian Airlines uniforms, Swissport staff performed the Arrivals, Lost-and-Found, Passenger Check-In, Departure Gate, Load Control, and Ramp Supervision functions, while Austrian itself continued to assume Ticket Sales, Administration, Supervision, and Management responsibilities .

Load control, which was initially performed in Terminal 4 using the Swissair DCS system, was ultimately transferred to Terminal One and the Lufthansa-WAB system after the Swissport operations personnel completed a computerized load control course in Vienna that March.

7. North American Station Training Program:

Because most of the Swissport agents had little previous airline experience and were consequently unfamiliar with Austrian Airlines' products and procedures, the author created a local training program by drafting the course descriptions, writing the textbooks, devising the quizzes and exams, teaching the courses themselves , and subsequently issuing the training certificates in order to more adequately prepare them to perform their jobs.

The program, tracing its routes to the Austrian Airlines Passenger Handling Course created in 1989 and the introductory Load Control training material written in 1998, evolved into the full-fledged North American Station Training Program, whose content, updated in accordance with aircraft, system, procedure, and alliance change, included the four integral curriculums of "Initial Passenger Service," "Ramp Supervision Certification," "Load Control Licensing," and "Airline Management."

Ultimately encompassing 27 Passenger Service, Ramp Supervision, Load Control, Air Cargo, and Airline Station Management procedural and training manuals, two station histories, and 28 curriculums, it resulted in 63 courses having been taught to Austrian Airlines and Austrian Airlines-handling carriers Delta , Lufthansa, Passenger Handling Services / Maca, SAS, Servair, and Swissport at the eight North American stations of Atlanta, Cancun, Chicago, Montreal, New York, Punta Cana, Toronto, and Washington.

The program, which quickly evolved into the equivalent of an "airline university" and was often cited as the reason why Swissport staff were eager to transfer to the Austrian Airlines account, proved instrumental in their career paths, facilitating their promotions or acceptances by other airlines .

8. Boeing and Lauda Air to JFK:

JFK, hitherto exclusively served by Austrian Airlines and its fleet of A-310, A-330, and A-340 Airbus widebody aircraft, received its first regularly scheduled Lauda Air 767 operation during the summer of 2004, a carrier founded by Formula I race car driver Niki Lauda and considered Austrian Airlines' competitor during the early part of its history. But by the following year its frequency quadrupled and during 2007 it altogether replaced the 17-year Airbus service.

The summer 2004 Lauda 767 flight, which operated as an addition to the daily Austrian frequency during the 11-week period from June 26 to September 5, was scheduled to arrive at 2055 on Saturday evenings and departed some 25 hours later at 2200 on Sunday.

In order to prepare the station for the additional service, local Boeing 767 Passenger Service and Boeing 767 Load Control courses were created and taught to Swissport staff.

Because the Lufthansa technical employees did not hold 767 licenses, its maintenance was contracted to Delta Air Lines, which operated all three -200, -300, and -400 series 767s, and an extensive night stop and security procedure was performed before aircraft push- back to the Terminal One hardstand, at which time security seals were applied to all access doors. Off-loaded galley equipment was washed and prepared for the following evening.

Because of the aircraft's then 36-passenger Amadeus Class capacity, the late departure was difficult to sell in the business cabin without significant marketing promotion and fare reduction, while cargo-pallet loading was door-dimensionally restricted to four positions in the forward compartment. The aircraft themselves operated in a combination of Lauda Air and Star Alliance liveries.

During the summer 2005 timetable, from June 14 to September 2, the 767-300 provided up to four additional weekly frequencies, resulting in a total of 11, with the A-330 standardly operating the early departure and the 767-300 the late one .

By 2007, the type altogether replaced the A-330 and A-340 fleets, but appeared with several configurations. Aircraft OE-LAE, -LAY, and -LAZ, for example, accommodated 36 in business and 189 in economy, while those registered OE-LAX and -LAW respectively featured 30 and 200 seats. Aircraft OE-LAT, which offered the highest capacity of the six, included ten more seats than these latter two, for a 240-passenger coach complement.

9. Centralized Load Control:

In late-2006, a concept known as the "Centralized Load Control" (CLC) System was introduced at JFK, and the station, like the nucleus of an atom, became the core of it all.

Brainchild of Michael Steinbuegl, then-JFK Station Manager, the procedure, following trends set by Swiss International in New York, Lufthansa in Cape Town, and SAS in Bangkok, had its origins in an earlier investigative project in which he explored cost reductions by means of a large, single Centralized Load Control department in Vienna or several regional ones. The latter, however, entailed language and time zone obstacles.

Having himself amassed considerable experience creating operational procedures and methods as former Aircraft Handling Manager, he was well versed with weight and balance issues.

Seeking to apply this knowledge and simultaneously attempting to rectify the system incompatibility and communication difficulties encountered with the SAS-Bangkok arrangement in Washington, he tackled this station first, which, like JFK, already used the Lufthansa-WAB system. In the process, he set the course for the many transitions to come by making several duty trips to establish local station-compatible procedures and then drafting a detailed booklet concerning them. The first centralized load sheet for the Washington flight, OS 094, was generated on November 1, 2006.

Charlie Schreiner, then head of Austrian Airlines Load Control, subsequently marked the occasion by sending the following telex.

"With Austrian Airlines Flight OS 094 on November 1," he wrote, "our first line station had been connected to a regular Centralized Load Control process with ULD aircraft. All activities toward the operational flight preparation, load planning, ULD coordination, and WAB System documentation, inclusive of the load sheet transmitted to the cockpit via ACARs, had been successfully controlled by our JFK station yesterday. "

The remainder of the CLC program, however, involved phased implementation. In May of the following year, service was reinaugurated from Chicago. Because this could now be considered a "new" station, it logically followed that its load sheet would be integrated into the CLC system from the start and, despite computer system differences, was successfully adapted with the first flight on May 29 after procedural modifications.

With these cities being handled by JFK, it was decided to integrate the last North American station, Toronto, whose first centralized load sheet was issued on July 1.

Three Austrian Airlines-dedicated Load Controllers from Swissport, two of whom worked on a given day during the peak summer season, formed the Centralized Load Control System team.

Since the fourth station was integrated, JFK produced some 120 load sheets per month, and the highly successful system yielded numerous benefits.

First and foremost, it produced considerable savings. All flights departed on time relative to their load plan and load sheet preparations and all four North American flights were operationally handled by only one more daily Load Controller than JFK had employed for a single departure. All loading instruction reports and load sheets were additionally generated by the Lufthansa-WAB system, giving Vienna immediate access to all load control-related data and documentation.

10. Boeing 777:

When Austrian Airlines turned the page of its winter 2008-2009 timetable on March 29, JFK fielded its first Boeing 777-200ER operation, the carrier's largest capacity aircraft and the fifth basic type to have served New York after the A-310, the A -330, the A-340, and the 767.

The airplane, having originally been acquired by Lauda Air, was configured for 49 business class and 258 coach passengers, although two later examples, which featured higher gross weights and modified passenger arrangements, accommodated 260 economy class passengers in ten-abreast, three-four -three, configurations.

During the six-month period between April and September of 2009, the single flight carried 34 percent more arriving and departing passengers, along with significantly increased complements of cargo and mail, than the comparable year-earlier period, when the 767 was used. The four 777s in the fleet were registered OE-LPA, OE-LPB, OE-LPC, and OE-LPD.

11. Lufthansa Acquisition:

2009 was a pivotal year for Austrian Airlines, both locally and systemwide. Because of the global economic downturn, escalating fuel prices, eroding yields, and strong competition within Western Europe from low cost carriers, its financial viability and continued existence as a company were threatened, despite previous strategies that included selling its A-330 and A- 340 fleet, reducing its long-range route system, and implementing several restructuring plans. Its savior, in the form of an agreement with Lufthansa-German Airlines, enabled it to continue operating, as it assumed its debt and acquired the majority of its shares.

On August 28, the European Commission officially approved Lufthansa-German Airlines' acquisition of the Austrian Airlines Group. Comprised of the 500 million euros from the stated holding company needed for restructuring and the merger between the two carriers, the strategy paved the way for Austrian's integration into the Lufthansa fold by September. In order to achieve the required antitrust immunity, however, Lufthansa itself had to agree to relinquish key flight slots and reduce the number of services between Vienna and Brussels, Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich, and Stuttgart.

For Austrian Airlines, which would become one of Lufthansa's several independent, European hub carriers, it signaled financial survival, an improved economic foundation, cost synergies, such as joint fuel and aircraft purchasing, and access to Lufthansa's extensive international sales and route network. The establishment of Vienna as a high-performance hub for traffic feed to its new owner's dense Central and Eastern European route system was considered Austrian's strength within the system.

As a result of this ownership, numerous, fundamental North American changes also occurred.

In Toronto and Washington, for example, Lufthansa assumed all ground-handling aspects.

In New York, more than half of the staff employed at its North American headquarters in Whitestone were laid off, while its facility, located on the fifth floor of Octagon Plaza and considered its "fortress" for almost a quarter of a century, was closed , with its remaining employees relocating to Lufthansa's East Meadow, Long Island, office.

At JFK itself, Austrian Airlines Cargo equally relocated to the Lufthansa facility on November 1, and 16 days later Swissport passed the ground-handling torch to Lufthansa-German Airlines.

Michael Steinbuegl, Manager of that station for four years, was promoted to Key Account Manager, North America, but four Ticket Sales-Reservation positions were rendered redundant when Lufthansa assumed those functions, reducing the Austrian Airlines' staff to just two members, (the author included), who received limited, six-month contracts that expired on May 15, 2010. Intermittently integrated into the Lufthansa operation and schedule, they handled their flights, while familiarizing Lufthansa employees with their own procedures, but after this transition period, were equally released from employment.

The last Austrian Airlines "red uniform presence," whether having been represented by purely Austrian Airlines or Swissport staff, occurred on November 15, and the first floor office in Terminal One, hitherto "home" for the carrier's Management, Passenger Service, Centralized Load Control, Ticket Sales-Reservations, and Baggage Services / Lost and Found Departments, was relinquished for three desks in the Lufthansa facility, two of which were Duty Manager stations located on the main level and one of which was reserved for the Key Account Manager position on the lower level in the Station Operations office.

All things seem to come fully cycle. The event, effectively ending 21 years of autonomous Austrian Airlines presence, marked the carrier's return to its 1938 integration with Lufthansa and its 2000 ground-handling arrangement at JFK.

12. JFK Station Strengths:

In 2009, Austrian Airlines operated 666 arriving and departing flights at JFK and carried 158,267 in- and outbound passengers, an 18.42-percent increase over the year-earlier figure, while it operated 5,005 arriving and departing flights and carried 1,074,642 passengers during the seven- year period, between 2003 and 2009, that Swissport USA assumed its ground-handling there.

JFK, having weathered several airline alliances, terminal locations, computer systems, handling companies, aircraft types, and an ever-decreasing number of Austrian Airlines personnel over its 21-year presence, effectively closed its doors, the last of its North American stations to have done so.

Throughout its more than two-decade presence, it had handled five aircraft types – the Airbus A-310, the Airbus A-330, the Airbus A-340, the Boeing 767, and the Boeing 777; had assumed four strategies – its initial, independent operation; the Delta Air Lines code share agreement; the tri-carrier Atlantic Excellence station; and the Star Alliance integration; had operated from four JFK terminals – Terminal One, Terminal Two, Terminal Three, and the International Arrivals Building; had been handled by three companies – Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa-German Airlines, and Swissport USA; and had used two computer systems.

Because the talents and abilities of many of its staff were channeled to produce creative and innovative results during the last chapter of its existence, JFK had notched up several achievements, some of which enabled it to play an increasingly nucleic role within North America. They can be subdivided as follows.

The North American Station Training Program, comprised of the Passenger Service, Ramp Supervision Certification, Load Control Licensing, and Management disciplines, was instrumental in the educational preparation of all entry-level employees, enabling them to perform their designated functions with sufficient procedural knowledge or climb the ladder all the way to management, if so needed. The textbooks and courses were subsequently used to duplicate this success at Austrian Airlines' other North American stations.

The Centralized Load Control (CLC) Department, entailing the preparation of loading instruction/reports and load sheets for the four North American stations of Chicago, New York, Toronto, and Washington, was highly successful and once involved four aircraft types: the Boeing 767, the Airbus A-330, the Airbus A-340, and the Boeing 777.

The Baggage Services/Lost and Found Department, under the direction of Omar Alli, served as a model for other stations and earned a lost baggage rating that became the envy of them. Omar himself often traveled to other stations in order to provide restructuring guidance for their own Baggage Services Departments.

The Ticket Sales-Reservations counter, under the direction of Sidonie Shields, consistently collected significant amounts of annual revenue in ticket sales, excess baggage, and other fees.

The visible presence of Austrian Airlines, in red uniforms, to the passenger, whether worn by Austrian Airlines or Swissport staff, cemented its identity.

The several annual special flights, which sometimes posed significant challenges, but were always successfully executed, included those carrying the Rabbi Twersky group, the American Music Abroad group, the IMTX group, the Vienna Boys' Choir, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and Life Ball, the latter with its high-profile celebrities, colorful characters, and pre-departure parties.

The special events, often fostering a "family" atmosphere among its own and Swissport staff, included the annual "Year in Review" series, the Pocono Mountain ski trips, the summer pool parties, the birthdays, the Thanksgiving dinners, and the Secret Santas at Christmas.

And, finally, the daily briefings, jokes, laughs, raps, camaraderie, friendships, and human connections continually emphasized and acknowledged the true souls behind everyone as they cohesively worked toward the airline's and the station's common goals.

Michael Steinbuegl, who assumed command as JFK Station Manager in September of 2005, had cultivated the environment and orchestrated the steps that had allowed every one of these accomplishments to be made.

13. Two Decades of Elasticity:

Austrian Airlines, hitherto among the smallest European airlines, had to assume a considerable degree of necessary "elasticity" during its 21 years at JFK, ebbing and flowing with the ever-changing turbulence created by prevailing market conditions, seeking financial benefit, synergistic strength, market niche, alliance realignment, and ultimate change of ownership. Defying Darwinian philosophy, whose "survival of the fittest" prediction is often translated as "survival of the largest," Austrian Airlines had, despite numerous, necessary redirections, proven the contrary, perhaps prompting a rewording of the philosophy to read, "survival of the smallest," if four short words were added-namely, "as a global player."

Toward this end, the latest strategy enabled the carrier to survive. For station JFK and its staff, however, it did not.

Epilogue:

Because I had been hired by Austrian Airlines two months before its inaugural transatlantic flight from JFK occurred on March 26, 1989 and subsequently held several positions there throughout its 21-year history, I felt singularly qualified, as a lifetime aviation researcher, historian, and writer, to preserve its story in words. It is, in essence, my story. It is what I lived. And what I leave…

Small Talk: Starting a Conversation While Traveling

With a record number of travelers this holiday season, many people find themselves sitting next to others on airplanes, at airports and at other functions. They want to talk with them but struggle to know what to say.

Start by making a statement about something you have in common, such as the long wait or the great view outside. Then ask a question. For example, "That's a beautiful sunset out there! Do you often fly at this time of day?" Follow it up with an open-ended question, such as "What's your favorite time to fly?"

In an airport, you can comment on the lines or the new security procedures, both of which are likely to get a response form someone else. Start by saying, "This line seems to be (finally) moving! Have you been in any other lines this long elsewhere in the airport today?" Then follow it up with "What do you think is the best domestic airline to fly?"

Be sensitive to others who do not want to talk. Some people want to work or sleep, for example, or prefer not to talk to strangers. Others may not speak much English, have a hearing loss, or difficulty speaking clearly. But many do want to talk, and just aren't sure how to start.

To end a conversation, give a reason why you need to stop. For example, "It's been nice talking to you. I need to do some work now." or "I hear my flight being called. Bye!"

Airport or airplane conversations can let you meet people you might otherwise never know. For safety reasons, be very cautious about giving out personal information. Most conversations, though, are casual and you are not likely to see the person again. But while you are together, make the most of it!

How to Capitalize on Benefits From Part 141 and Part 61 Helicopter Flight Training

There has long been a debate on the advantages of Part 141 versus Part 61 training. Student pilots are confused by the differences and are therefore unable to determine how to make the most of the benefits offered by each.

The following remains the same, regardless of whether your train under Part 141 or Part 61: 1) Written tests. 2) Oral exam in check ride. 3) Flight portion of the check ride. 4) License issued.

Measurement of success is the same at both types of schools: 1) Instructors make or break the school. Knowledgeable, experienced instructors are key. 2) Some flight schools have a high dropout ratio. Successful schools should have at least 90% of the students they train attain the certificates and ratings they signed up for. 3) Aircraft maintenance is important. Students should very seldom have flight lessons canceled due to aircraft being grounded. 4) The school accident record should be zero or close to zero, indicating that the school places a high value on your safety.

On the surface, it looks like all helicopter flight schools are very similar. This is why it is so useful to understand the differences between Part 141 and Part 61. The two biggest differences are: 1) Part 141 training requires following an FAA approved Training Course Outline (TCO). Part 61 does not require a TCO be used at all. 2) The flight school itself and the Chief Flight Instructor have to meet stringent FAA requirements. Part 61 is not subject to these FAA requirements.

Let's start with Part 61 helicopter training and flight schools. The majority of helicopter flight schools in the USA today are Part 61 flight schools. Many Part 61 helicopter flight schools start off with one certified flight instructor and one helicopter. The flight instructor offers one-on-one training to prospective students and teaches the student as he or she sees fit. If the instructor is good, more students join the school and the owner purchases additional helicopters and hires more instructors to meet the demand.

There are no FAA inspections required for a Part 61 helicopter flight school. The flight school is free to train their students using their own chosen methods. They are expected to follow the rules and regulations in the FAR / AIM for Part 61 flight schools and training, but are not subject to FAA inspections to confirm that they are doing this.

Part 141 training and flight schools have to meet very specific requirements and standards. The helicopter flight school itself is issued an Air Agency Certificate when it passes the FAA inspections. Facilities and aircraft that will be used for Part 141 training are inspected. The Chief Flight Instructor is required to take an annual check ride with the FAA.

On the training side, the flight school submits a separate and distinct Training Course Outline (TCO) to the FAA for each certificate and / or rating that they want to teach under Part 141. For example, a Private Pilot TCO would be submitted. This contains lesson plans for both Flight and Ground training. The flight school would have to submit another TCO for Instruments if they wanted to teach Instrument ratings under Part 141.

Don't assume that a Part 141 helicopter flight school offers all their certificates and ratings under Part 141. Many only obtain FAA certification for Private, Instrument and Commercial certificates. It takes a lot of work for the flight school to create TCO's and to teach under Part 141. The FAA requires that the flight school keep extensive student documentation for Part 141, including very detailed information on student progress. This is great for the student. It is time consuming for the flight school.

There are a few very large flight schools that only offer Part 141 training. They have set schedules for their classes and teach many students at the same time. They also have regimented flight schedules. These few very large flight schools often have a very high ratio of foreign versus domestic students. This is because SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System) requires that flight schools be FAA certified as a Part 141 flight school in order to apply for permission to train international students. The Veterans Association (VA) has the same Part 141 requirement for veterans to use their VA benefits.

Most Part 141 schools also offer Part 61 training for the same programs. For example, you may choose to do your Private Pilot under Part 141 or Part 61. Schools that offer both training methods provide the most flexibility to the student.

The student attending a Part 141 helicopter flight school gets all the benefits of attending a Part 141 school even if they choose to do some or all of their training under Part 61. This is due to the school being subject to random FAA inspections. They have to maintain their high standards at all times to retain their certification.

The disadvantage of Part 141 training is that the TCO has to be followed in the sequence written. Every student learns differently and some people prefer the flexibility of Part 61 training, which enables the student to cover materials in the sequence appropriate for him or herself.

This brings to light another advantage to a flight school that offers both Part 141 and Part 61 training. They will often use the TCO for your Part 61 training. This is great for the student pilot as you get the benefit of a structured Training Course Outline that is FAA certified, while at the same time being able to cover materials in the order that suits you best.

Another advantage to training at a school that offers both is that you can mix and match your training. For example, I did my Private Pilot under Part 61 as I wanted the flexibility to jump around in the curriculum. Flying instruments is very structured and is about learning procedures, so I choose to do my instrument training under Part 141. I found the structured approach and learning sequence worked really well for my Instrument training. I went back to Part 61 for my Commercial training.

Learning to fly a helicopter is fun, exciting and expensive. Learn all you can about your helicopter flight school and the programs they offer before making your final decision. Fly safe!

Japan's Insurance Industry

During the heydays of the 80's and the first half of 90's, like rest of its economy, Japan's insurance industry was growing as a juggernaut. The sheer volume of premium income and asset formation, sometimes comparable with even the mightiest USA and the limitation of domestic investment opportunity, led Japanese insurance firms to look outwards for investment. The industry's position as a major international investor beginning in the 1980's brought it under the scanner of analysts around the world.

The global insurance giants tried to set a foothold in the market, eyeing the gargantuan size of the market. But the restrictive nature of Japanese insurance laws led to intense, sometimes acrimonious, negotiations between Washington and Tokyo in the mid-1990s. The bilateral and bilateral agreements that resulted coincided with Japan's Big Bang financial reforms and deregulation.

Building on the outcome of the 1994 US-Japan insurance talks, a series of liberalization and deregulation measures has since been implemented. But the deregulation process was very slow, and more often than not, very selective in protecting the domestic companies interest and market share. Although the Japanese economy was comparable with its counterpart in USA in size, the very basis of efficient financial markets – the sound rules and regulations for a competitive economic environment – were conspicuously absent. And its institutional structure was different, too, from the rest of the developed countries.

The kieretsu structure – the corporate group with cross holdings in large number of companies in different industries – was a unique phenomenon in Japan. As a result, the necessary shareholder activism to force the companies to adopt optimal business strategy for the company was absent. Although initially touted as a model one in the days of Japan's prosperity, the vulnerability of this system became too evident when the bubble of the economic boom went burst in the nineties. Also working against Japan was its inability to keep pace with the software development elsewhere in the world. Software was the engine of growth in the world economy in the last decade, and countries lagging in this field faced the sagging economies of the nineties.

Japan, the world leader in the "brick and mortar" industries, surprisingly lagged far behind in the "New World" economy after the Internet revolution. Now Japan is calling the nineties a "lost decade" for its economy, which lost its sheen following 3 recessions in the last decade. Interest rates nose-dived to historic lows, to thwart the falling economy – in vain. For insurers, whose lifeline is the interest spread in their investment, this wreaked havoc. Quite a few large insurance companies went bankrupt in the face of "negative spread" and rising volume of non-performing assets. While Japanese insurers largely have escaped the scandals afflicting their brethren in the banking and securities industries, they are currently enduring unprecedented financial difficulties, including catastrophic bankruptcies.

Institutional Weaknesses

The Japanese market is a gigantic one, yet it is comprised of only a few companies. Unlike its USA counterpart, in which around two thousand companies are fiercely competing in the life segment, Japan's market is comprised of only twenty-nine companies classified as domestic and a handful of foreign entities. The same situation prevailed in the non-life sector with twenty-six domestic companies and thirty-one foreign firms offering their products. So, consumers have far fewer choices than their American counterparts in choosing their carrier. There is less variety also on the product side. Both the life and non-life insurers in Japan are characterized by "plain vanilla" offerings. This is more apparent in automobile insurance, where, until recently premiums were not permitted to reflect differential risk, such as, by gender, driving record etc. Drivers were classified in three age groups only for purposes of premium determination, whereas US rates long have reflected all these factors and others as well.

The demand varies for different types of products, too. Japanese insurance products are more savings-oriented. Similarly, although many Japanese life insurance companies offer a few limited kinds of variable life policies (in which benefits reflect the value of the underlying financial assets held by the insurance company, thereby exposing the insured to market risk), there are few takers for such policies. At ¥ 100 = $ 1.00, Japanese variable life policies in force as of March 31, 1996 had a value of only $ 7.5 billion, representing a scant 0.08 percent of all life insurance. By contrast, American variable life policies in force as of 1995 were worth $ 2.7 trillion, roughly 5 percent of the total, with many options, such as variable universal life, available.

Japanese insurance companies in both parts of the industry have competed less than their American counterparts. In an environment where a few firms offer a limited number of products to a market in which new entry is closely regulated, implicit price coordination to restrain competition would be expected. However, factors peculiar to Japan further reduce rivalry.

A lack of both price competition and product differentiation implies that an insurance company can grab a firm's business and then keep it almost indefinitely. American analysts sometimes have noted that keiretsu (corporate group) ties are just such an excuse. A member of the Mitsubishi Group of companies, for example, ordinarily might shop around for the best deal on the hundreds or thousands of goods and services it buys. But in the case of non-life insurance, such comparative pricing would be futile, since all companies would offer much the same product at the same price. As a result, a Mitsubishi Group company, more often than not, gives business to Tokio Marine & Fire Insurance Co., Ltd., a member of the Mitsubishi keiretsu for decades.

On paper, life insurance premiums have been more flexible. However, the government role looms large in this part of the industry as well – and in a way that affects the pricing of insurance products. The nation's postal system operates, in addition to its enormous savings system, the postal life insurance system popularly known as Kampo. Transactions for Kampo are conducted at the windows of thousands of post offices. As of March 1995, Kampo had 84.1 million policies outstanding, or roughly one per household, and nearly 10 percent of the life insurance market, as measured by policies in force.

Funds invested in Kampo mostly go into a huge fund called the Trust Fund, which, in turn, invests in several government financial institutions as well as numerous semipublic units that engage in a variety of activities associated with government, such as ports and highways. Although the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) has direct responsibility for Kampo, the Ministry of Finance runs the Trust Fund. Hence, theoretically MOF can exert influence over the returns Kampo is able to earn and, by extension, the premiums it is likely to charge.

Kampo has a number of characteristics that influence its interaction with the private sector. As a government-run institution, it inarguably is less efficient, raising its costs, rendering it noncompetitive, and implying a declining market share over time. However, since Kampo cannot fail, it has a high risk-tolerance that ultimately could be borne by taxpayers. This implies an expanding market share to the extent that this postal life insurance system is able to underprice its products. While the growth scenario presumably is what MPT prefers, MOF seemingly is just as interested in protecting the insurance companies under its wing from "excessive" competition.

The net effect of these conflicting incentives is that Kampo appears to restrain the premiums charged by insurers. If their prices go up excessively, then Kampo will capture additional share. In response, insurers may roll back premiums. Conversely, if returns on investments or greater efficiency reduce private-sector premiums relative to the underlying insurance, Kampo will lose market share unless it adjusts.

Japan's life insurance sector also lags behind its American counterpart in formulating inter-company cooperative approaches against the threats of anti-selection and fraudulent activities by individuals. Although the number of companies is far lower in Japan, distrust and disunity among them resulted in isolated approaches in dealing with these threats. In USA, the existence of sector sponsored entities like Medical Information Bureau (MIB) acts as a first line of defense against frauds and in turn saves the industry around $ 1 Billion a year in terms protective value and sentinel effect. Off late, major Japanese carriers are initiating approaches similar to formation of common data warehousing and data sharing.

Analysts often complain against insurance companies for their reluctance to adhere to prudent international norms regarding disclosure of their financial data to the investment community and their policyholders. This is particularly true because of the mutual characteristic of the companies as compared with their "public" counterpart in US. For example, Nissan Mutual Life Insurance Co., failed in 1997, generally reported net assets and profits in recent years, even though the company's president conceded after its failure that the firm had been insolvent for years.

Foreign Participation in Life Insurance

Since February 1973, when the American Life Insurance Company (ALICO) first went to Japan to participate in the market, fifteen foreign life insurance companies (with more than 50% foreign capital) are currently in business. However, companies like American Family Life (AFLAC) were initially permitted to operate only in the third sector, namely the Medical Supplement Area, like critical illness plans and cancer plans, which were not attractive to Japanese insurance companies. The mainstream life insurance business was kept out of reach of foreign carriers. However, the big turmoil in the industry in the late nineties left many of the domestic companies in deep financial trouble. In their scurry for protection, Japan allowed foreign companies to acquire the ailing ones and keep them afloat.

Foreign operators continue to enter the Japanese market. As one of the world's top two life insurance markets, Japan is considered to be as strategically important as North America and the European Union. Consolidation in the Japanese life market, facilitated by the collapse of domestic insurers and by ongoing deregulation, is providing global insurers with prime opportunities to expand their business in Japan. The total market share of foreign players is gradually increasing, with global insurers accounting for over 5% in terms of premium incomes at the end of fiscal 1999 and over 6% of individual business in force. These figures are roughly two times higher than those five years earlier.

In 2000, the AXA Group strengthened its base of operations in Japan through the acquisition of Nippon Dantai Life Insurance Co. Ltd, a second-tier domestic insurer with a weak financial profile. To this end, AX formed the first holding company in the Japanese life sector. Aetna Life Insurance Co. followed suit, acquiring Heiwa Life Insurance Co., while Winterthur Group bought Nicos Life Insurance and Prudential UK bought Orico Life Insurance. Also newly active in the Japanese market are Hartford Life Insurance Co., a US-based insurer well known for its variable insurance business, and France's Cardiff Vie Assurance.

In addition, Manulife Century, subsidiary of Manufacturers Life Insurance Company inherited the operations and assets of Daihyaku Mutual Life Insurance Co., which had failed in May 1999. In April 2001, AIG Life Insurance Co. assumed the operations of Chiyoda Life, and Prudential Life Insurance Co. Ltd. took over Kyoei Life. Both the Japanese companies filed for court protection last October.

The foreign entrants bring with them reputations as part of international insurance groups, supported by favorable global track records and strong financial capacity. They are also free of the negative spreads that have plagued Japanese insurers for a decade. Foreign players are better positioned to optimize business opportunities despite turmoil in the market. Although several large Japanese insurers still dominate the market in terms of share, the dynamics are changing as existing business blocks shift from the domestic insurers, including failed companies, to the newcomers in line with policyholders' flight to quality. The list of companies, with foreign participation, is the following:

INA Himawari Life
Prudential Life
Manulife Century Life

Skandia Life
GE Edison Life
Aoba Life

Aetna Heiwa Life
Nichidan Life
Zurich Life

ALICO Japan
American Family Life
AXA Nichidan Life

Prudential Life
ING Life
CARDIFF Assurance Vie

NICOS Life

Foreign insurers are expected to be able to prevail over their domestic rivals to some extent in terms of innovative products and distribution, where they can draw on broader experience in global insurance markets. One immediate challenge for the foreign insurers will be how to establish a large enough franchise in Japan so that they can leverage these competitive advantages.

What ails the life insurance industry?

Apart from its own operational inefficiency, Japan's life insurance sector is also a victim of government policies intended in part to rescue banks from financial distress. By keeping short-term interest rates low, the Bank of Japan encouraged in the mid-1990s a relatively wide spread between short-term rates and long-term rates. That benefited banks, which tend to pay short-term rates on their deposits and charge long-term rates on their loans.

The same policy, however, was detrimental to life insurance companies. Their customers had locked in relatively high rates on typically long-term investment-type insurance policies. The drop in interest rates generally meant that returns on insurers' assets fell. By late 1997 insurance company officials were reporting that guaranteed rates of return averaged 4 percent, while returns on a favored asset, long-term Japanese government bonds, hovered below 2 percent.

Insurance companies cannot make up for a negative spread even with increased volume. In FY 1996 they tried to get out of their dilemma by cutting yields on pension-type investments, only to witness a massive outflow of money under their management to competitors.

To add insult to injury, life insurance companies are shouldering part of the cost of cleaning up banks' non-performing asset mess. Beginning in 1990, the Finance Ministry permitted the issuance of subordinated debt made to order for banks. They can count any funds raised through such instruments as part of their capital, thereby making it easier than otherwise to meet capital / asset ratio requirements in place. This treatment arguably makes sense, inasmuch as holders of such debt, like equity holders, stand almost last in line in the event of bankruptcy.

Subordinated debt carries high rates of interest precisely because the risk of default is higher. In the early 1990s insurers, figuring bank defaults were next to impossible and tempted by the high returns available, lent large amounts to banks and other financial institutions on a subordinated basis. Smaller companies, perhaps out of eagerness to catch up with their larger counterparts, were especially big participants. Tokyo Mutual Life Insurance Co., which ranks 16th in Japan's life insurance industry on the basis of assets, had roughly 8 percent of its assets as subordinated debt as of March 31, 1997, while industry leader Nippon Life had only 3 percent.

The rest, of course, is history. Banks and securities companies, to which insurers also had lent, began to fail in the mid-1990s. The collapse of Sanyo Securities Co., Ltd. last fall was precipitated in part by the refusal of life insurance companies to roll over the brokerage firm's subordinated loans. Life insurers complained that they sometimes were not paid off even when the conditions of a bank failure implied that they should have been. For example, Meiji Life Insurance Co. reportedly had ¥ 35 billion ($ 291.7 million) outstanding in subordinated debt to Hokkaido Takushoku Bank, Ltd. when the bank collapsed in November. Even though the Hokkaido bank did have some good loans that were transferred to North Pacific Bank, Ltd., Meiji Life was not compensated from these assets. It apparently will have to write off the entire loan balance.

Subordinated debt is only part of the bad-debt story. Insurance companies had a role in nearly every large-scale, half-baked lending scheme that collapsed along with the bubble economy in the early 1990s. For example, they were lenders to jusen (housing finance companies) and had to share in the costly cleanup of that mess. Moreover, like banks, insurers counted on unrealized profits from their equity holdings to bail them out if they got into trouble. Smaller insurers of the bubble period bought such stock at relatively high prices, with the result that, at 1997's year-end depressed stock prices, all but two middle-tier (size rank 9 to 16) life insurance companies had unrealized net losses.

What Lies Ahead

Analysts have identified the following short-term challenges to the sector:

New market entrants;
Pressure on earnings;
Poor asset quality; and,
Capitalization.

The recent high-profile failures of several life insurance companies have turned up the pressure on life companies to address these challenges urgently and in recognizable ways.

The investment market has been even worse than expected. Interest rates have not risen from historically low levels. The Nikkei index has sagged since January 2001, and plummeted to 9 year low following recent terrorist attack on American soil. Unrealized gains used to provide some cushion for most insurers, but, depending on the insurers' reliance on unrealized gains, the volatility of retained earnings is now affecting capitalization levels and thus financial flexibility.

Table 1
Major Risks Facing Japanese Life Insurance Companies

Business risks
Financial risks

Weak Japanese economy
Strong earnings pressures

Lack of policyholder confidence, flight to quality
Low interest rates, exposure to domestic, overseas investment market fluctuations

Deregulation, mounting competition
Poor asset quality

Inadequate policyholders' safety net
Weakened capitalization

Accelerating consolidation within life sector, with other financial sectors
Limited financial flexibility

Most analysts probably would agree that Japan's life insurers face problems of both solvency and liquidity. Heavy contractual obligations to policyholders, shrinking returns on assets, and little or no cushion from unrealized gains on stock portfolios combine to make the continued viability of some companies far from certain. Many others, while obviously solvent, face the risk that they will have to pay off uneasy policyholders earlier than they had planned. Either solvency or liquidity concerns raise the question as to how insurers will manage their assets. Another factor that has to be considered is Japan's aging population. As Mr. Yasuo Satoh, Program Manager of insurance industry, finance sector, IBM Japan, points out, "The industry needs to change the business model. They have to concentrate on life benefits rather than death benefits and they have to emphasize on Medical Supplement and long term care sectors as the overall population is aging. "

Japanese life insurers are actively pursuing greater segmentation, while seeking to establish unique strategies both in traditional life and non-life businesses. In late 2000, the sector witnessed the emergence of several business partnerships and cross-border alliances involving large domestic life insurers. Anticipating increased market consolidation, heated competition, and full liberalization of third-sector businesses, the companies are reviewing their involvement through subsidiaries in the non-life side of the business, which was first allowed in 1996.

Over the long term, Japanese insurers are likely to forge business alliances based on demutualization. Widespread consolidation in Japan's financial markets over the near term will bring about an overhaul of the life insurance sector as well. Although domestic life insurers announced various business strategies in the latter half of 2000 to respond to this sea change, the actual benefit of various planned alliances for each insurer remains uncertain. Further market consolidation should add value for policyholders, at least, making available a wider range of products and services. To succeed, life insurers will have to be more sensitive to diverse customers needs, while at the same time establishing new business models to secure their earning base. Long term prospects seem to be good considering the high saving rate of Japanese population. But in the short term, Japan is poised to see a few more insurers succumb before the sector tightens its bottom line with sweeping reforms and prudent investment and disclosure norms.

United Airlines: Dominating the Skies

United Airlines was founded on 6th April 1926 at Boise in Idaho. Its original name was Varney Air Lines. Its airport lounge is named Red Carpet Club and it is a member of the Star Alliance. It offers flights to 216 destinations across the world and its parent company is United Continental Holdings. It is based at Chicago, Illinois.

Fleet Size

United Airlines has 359 airplanes in operation. 97 of these are Airbus A320s and 96 are Boeing 757-200s. The American airline also has 55 Airbus A319s at its disposal along with 35 Boeing 767-300ERs. There are 33 Boeing 777-200ERs and 24 Boeing 747-400s along with 19 Boeing 777-200s.

Hubs

United operates from six main hubs – International Airport of O'Hare at Chicago, San Francisco Airport, Washington Dulles Airport, Los Angeles Airport, Denver Airport and Narita International Airport in Tokyo.

United Airlines is looking to add a few airports to its list of hubs in the future. They may be mentioned as below:

Newark Liberty International Airport
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
George Bush Intercontinental Airport
Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport

Destinations

United Airlines offers flights to Accra and Lagos in Africa. In the Caribbeans, its flights can be boarded from cities such as Oranjestad, Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, San Juan and Punta Cana. In Central and North America, its flights head to Liberia, Cancun and Calgary apart from several destinations in USA.

In southern America, this American carrier provides flights to Buenos Aires, Lima and Rio di Janeiro among others. In Asia, Beijing, Taipei, Osaka, Singapore and Seoul have the major airports. The most important European destinations of United Airlines are Brussels, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. Melbourne and Guam are the major locations in the Oceanian belt.

Frequent-Flyer Program

Mileage Plus is United Airlines's frequent flyer program. The main benefit of the program is that the recipients receive never-ending mileage. However, in order for this to be effective, the flyer has to either redeem or earn travel miles every eighteen months.

The organization also provides elite-level memberships. This provides more benefits than the standard memberships. This facility was initiated in 2010 and was accessible only by members who held Premier, 1K and Premier Executive Membership status.

These members could also get limitless upgrades on domestic flights. However, these facilities are provided only if there is sufficient space in the flights.

Codesharing Agreements

United Airlines has Codesharing deals with a number of airlines:

Aer Lingus
Hawaiian Airlines
Avianca
Island Air
Emirates
Jet Airways
Ethiopian Airlines
Qatar Airways
Great Lakes Aviation
TACA Airlines
Gulfstream International Airlines

The Airline Ticket is a Binding Contract

This contract you received and which you may not have even known you entered, has many terms and conditions governing your flight that are often hidden in convoluted legal language. On the back of the typical ticket are fine-print paragraphs called "Conditions of Carriage". Included with these paragraphs is a statement that the airline has filed additional policies with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) about its liability limits and its promised services for passengers. Federal law mandates that any person who sells airline tickets – including airline employees at the airport or at an airline call center, as well as travel agents, travel websites and other retailers – must make a copy of the entire contract of carriage, including the aforementioned statements filed with the DOT, available to you upon request.

The contract of carriage is the basic document which governs the relationship between the airline and you, covering everything from boarding requirements and baggage limits to the compensation you are due if your flight is delayed. As mentioned before, the contract is usually written in very fine print and stilted toward the legally educated, but it is important. Read it. Each airline will have its own independent contract of carriage and while many use similar language, there will always be important differences also. You must always read the actual contract provided by the carrier before you file any complaints about your flight.

A piece of US legislature called the Federal Aviation Act protects your rights on domestic flights. This act gives the DOT authority to create and enforce regulations governing the responsibilities of airlines and the rights of passengers. While this act pre-empts most state laws that attempt to regulate airlines, some state statutes and common-law contract rules may still apply.

On international flights, your rights will largely fall under an international agreement called the Warsaw Convention. Almost all of the world nations that have functional airports now abide by the terms of this treaty. Like the Federal Aviation Act, it lists an airline's liability for any losses you may incur because your flight was delayed or your baggage was lost, delayed or damaged while you are engaged in international travel. If your ticket shows that you will be flying between countries that have adopted the Warsaw Convention or if, on the way to your final destination, you will stop over in a country that has adopted it, you meet this qualification.

An odd twist of the Warsaw Convention is that it applies, based on the way the ticket was issued, not on the actual flights. For example, if you booked a flight from Las Vegas to Tokyo and the flight crashes in California, you will be covered by the Warsaw Convention because it was your intent to fly internationally between the USA and Japan (both nations participate in this treaty). However, if your flight from New York to Oregon veers off course and crashes in Canada, the airline would not be bound by the Warsaw Convention.

Remember that the ticket you buy is in fact a legal contract and you are entering it willingly by purchasing it.

Top Online Travel Companies (OTAs) In India – Know Them Better Before You Use Their Services

There are over 30 online travel companies in India excluding Airlines and other Hotels sites. Few of them specialize in a particular field. For the benefit of all visitors to India coming from around the world, the top ten sites, where you can book your India trip are as under –

Makemytrip.com – MakeMyTrip, India's No 1 travel website, founded and promoted by Mr Deep Kalra, is the top website in the country for any travel related products and services. They offer airline tickets, hotels bookings, car rentals, holiday destinations, and even train bookings now on their website. Makemytrip caters to the US / Canada markets, Indian market and recently they have started makemytrip UAE as well. Makemytrip is now coming up with their firs IPO in USA and raising around $ 100 million. They got oversubscribed and raised around $ 800 million. Their office is based out of Gurgaon in India and they have over 700 employees. Their code specialization is into holiday planning and booking, including inbound travelers. They are believed to be selling over 8000 tickets per day.

Yatra – Yatra is known to be the second best OTA travel website in the country. It has been promoted by Dhruv Shringi along with a couple of more guys, who served with eBookers before this venture. Yatra has been funded by some leading Indian Reliance group, TV 18 Group and NVP and recently got funding from Intel as well. They specialize in domestic flights. They are also based out of Gurgaon in India and have over 600 employees. They also book Car Rentals, Hotels, Holidays and Train bookings. Currently, it is expected that they are selling over 5000 tickets per day.

Cleartrip – Cleartrip was a new entrant in the Indian market around 3 years ago and they are known for their technology. As the name says, their technology is very clear and on their home page as well, you do not see any banners and pop ups. They were the first OTA to integrate with India's Railway Reservation system called IRCTC. They are based out of Mumbai and have a smaller team as compared to Makemytrip or Yatra.

Expedia India – Expedia very recently entered Indian travel space and they are currently focusing on their hotels business. They are yet to integrate LCCs (Low Cost Carrers) such as GoAir, GoIndigo, JetLite, Kingfisher Red etc into their portfolio. But it is sure that in a year time, they will be leading the Indian market.

Travelocity India – Travelocity is yet again a new entrant in the Indian market and they are progressing fast. They bought another hotel OTA called Travelguru recently. They are being controlled from Singapore.